Jillian Tamaki is an actual literary and artistic treasure. Most modern graphic novels can say a lot with very, very little; after digesting a boat load of graphic novels this past year, I’ve found minimalism requires an over-abundance of concentrated effort to be truly effective. Boundless is full to the brim with seemingly effortless, casual strokes, but nothing so wild could be so deft and direct.
Just like Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying, this compilation hits the mark every single time. Each chapter is rife with emotive, fluid human forms paired with simple stories that feel torn directly from life, or the female existence in particular. Nothing reads as definitively, defiantly, potently female as Boundless. From the idol worship of childhood in relationships in “Body Pods,” to the self conscious power structures in “The Clairfree System,” to the embarrassingly pertinent social media commentary in “1.Jenny”, it’s all like having a conversation with your closest female friends and commiserating over shared experience.
I’d say two of the more powerful modern commentaries on womanhood in the media comes from “Half-Life,” a story about a woman in her 50’s-60’s who starts shrinking, at first imperceptibly (the doctors say you’ve lost weight, good for you! *massive eye roll*) and then radically, as she becomes the size of a doll, smaller still to the size of a shell, an atom, and drifts away. This story is paired so intentionally with “Darla!”, a story about a scripted comedy series that was the first of its kind—it included pornographic sex scenes! Ironic internet fan-boys line up for autographs by the creator years after its cancellation, while the director thinks, “I never thought we were making high art, but we put a lot of heart into that show. There’s nothing wrong with being sincere.”
This comic/graphic novel fulfills a few of Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge criteria:
A comic written and illustrated by the same person
A comic written and illustrated by a POC
A one-sitting book
A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image